Great feedback and some I hope the up and coming generation of engineers will take it to heart.
As far as the communications skills, I do think this next generation is all about collaboration and eliciting feedback from a peer community--skills that no doubt fall into the bucket of communications. But I do agree with you, Rich, that the way this generation communicates is very different than the past. They are better able to share ideas and work in a team-based atmosphere, but they are far too oriented to communicating in a digital format--through text, instant messages, email (I know archaic in that world), social platforms. What they seem to shy away from and what is still so critical is the face-to-face, conversation-to-conversation communications where nuance and context and mood is much more clear. A lot can get lost in the translation in digital communications so personal communications are still requisite and in some cases, an art form.
Rich, I remember that posting and I think I responded at the time. What I would say to youngsters going into engineering is be flexible. Of course, I have one that just started, and he is already switching. I have another looking at schools now. I think he is set, but you never know.
I know many people who have started with one degree and gone on to get others. Getting an advanced degree is often necessary when working on multidiscinplinary projects like robotics. At one time I ran into a bunch of engineers at a large company that was getting into robotics for their own use and for customer applications. Some had mechanical engineering degrees, some had electrical engineering degrees. Several got masters degrees in both as a part of their training. I also know someone who has a Masters of Mechanical Engineering degree, and is a Mechanical PE, who is working for a Civil Engineering firm. There seem to be lots of these cross discipline examples. I guess one bit of advise is to keep learning.
I agree wholeheartedly with Beth Robinson's comment about co-ops. The best thing I did in my academic career was to get a part-time engineering job in my final year of college. Although the skills obstained at that job didn't translate well to my first full-time job, I got a taste of what it was like to be an engineer, and I made myself more marketable when I graduated. Co-ops are great because students can get a taste of engineering after their first year. That usually gives them a litle more enthusiasm for their chosen major and a better perspective on their education. On the flip side, if they find they don't like working in an engineering office, it's not too late to study something else.
I have one kid in college who keeps changing majors and two more who will enter college in the next couple years. I'm torn as to whether I should encourage them to choose a major early or wait to see if something pops with interest later on. I agree with you, Chuck, about working in your major during the last couple years of school. Internships and part-time work can turn into career jobs.
But you never know how things will turn out. Over the weekend, I watched one of Chuck's favorite movies: October Sky, which is about the "Rocket Boys." I was surprised to see what happened to these kids. Only one of the four ended up in an engineering-related job, the author, even though all four completed college on the scholarships they earned with their rocket work. So you never know.
Naperlou, I agree with the need to be flexible and multidisciplinary in your learning. Advice that I would give to a new student would be that a master's degree while not required definitely helps in your career. Have a master's degree when entering the job market puts you near the top of the list when getting interviews.
I agree that some of the best might find it hard and against their wiring. Overall, I'm an advocate of the strengthening your strengths theory.
However, there's a world of difference between someone who wants to be able to communicate and tries to get at least a minimum skill level and someone who just expects everyone to deal with their lack of communication skills because they are an engineering genius. (I'm ignoring any discussion of the autism spectrum here. I know that can be another matter.) Sometimes "translators" may be necessary. For general advice for a new student/grad, most of whom aren't geniuses, - being able to be a translator is a plus.
You are assuming that they even recognize that they have a problem communicating. Some people are just "out there". I don't think that they necessarily recognize their inability to communicate. They just are the way they are.
I agree that "translators" can be necessary. It takes the right kind of manager to get the most out of genius, and the right kind of person/people to "translate", and draw the person out when required.
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With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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